Unthought: The Power of the Cognitive Nonconscious

Katherine Hayles


University of Chicago Press

Hayles is known for breaking new ground at the intersection of the sciences and the humanities and here once again she bridges disciplines by revealing how we use cognitive processes that are inaccessible to consciousness yet necessary for it to function—how we think without thinking.

Bringing together fresh insights from neuroscience, cognitive science, cognitive biology, and literature, Hayles expands our understanding of cognition and demonstrates that it involves more than consciousness alone. Cognition is applicable not only to non-conscious processes in humans but to all forms of life, including unicellular organisms and plants. She also shows that cognition operates in the sophisticated information-processing abilities of technical systems: when humans and cognitive technical systems interact, they form “cognitive assemblages” which are transforming life on earth. The result is what she refers to as “planetary cognitive ecology,” which includes both human and technical actors and which poses urgent questions to humanists and social scientists alike.